by Olena

Ground Turkey Pasta Bake

by Olena

4.8 from 28 reviews

Ground Turkey Pasta Bake is a casserole recipe made healthy with ground turkey, whole wheat pasta, kale or spinach, and tomato sauce.

So easy and kids love it!

Turkey pasta bake in a dish.

This ground turkey pasta bake is perfect for a fairly quick weeknight meal, leftovers and even a make ahead freezer meal.

Whole grain pasta, fresh kale (or spinach), and ground turkey meat topped with a reasonable amount of mozzarella cheese and baked until golden.

In my house, everyone loves pasta with cheese, I bet in yours too. I just knew that I could sneak in a bunch of kale in this turkey pasta bake and nobody would complain.

Ingredients for Ground Turkey Pasta Bake

  • Pasta: White, whole wheat or gluten free pasta works. Whole grain pasta is more healthy choice as it has more fiber and nutrients than white pasta.
  • Ground turkey: Lean or extra lean ground turkey or chicken would be great.
  • Greens: Nutritional powerhouse, kale is full of fiber, iron and antioxidants. I could see how this casserole would be a perfect candidate for going bad box of spinach.
  • Tomato sauce: I am using plain low sodium tomato sauce from a can. If yours is not low sodium, add less salt.
  • Cheese: I am using Mozzarella cheese. I recommend to shred your own as it melts better.
  • Onion, garlic, dried herbs and sweetener: Veggies and herbs add flavour without many calories. Any sweetener will work and it helps to reduce acidity of tomatoes.

ground turkey pasta bake and red towel

How to Make Ground Turkey Pasta Casserole

  • Cook pasta al dente as per package instructions, undercooking by 4 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
  • Prep: Spray 9×13 baking dish, preheat oven to 375 F degrees and find large skillet for sauteing.
  • Cook veggies and turkey: Saute onion and garlic for 2 – 3 minutes. Then add ground turkey and cook for another 7 minutes, breaking meat into small pieces.

Drained pasta and meat sauce in a skillet

  • Make meat sauce: Add tomato sauce, honey (to offset acidity of tomatoes), pasta water, seasonings, kale and stir.
  • Combine pasta with meat sauce: That’s why cooking everything in large skillet is a good idea. Transfer half of the mixture in baking dish, sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese, add remaining mixture and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups cheese.
  • Bake: Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and broil until cheese is golden brown.

This casserole turned out delicious and juicy!

Pasta with meat sauce in a skillet and then in baking dish with cheese on top.

How to Store, Reheat and Freeze Casserole

Serving: Let casserole sit for about 10 mins after baking. It is a general rule with all bakes. Serve hot garnished with parsley, if desired. It serves 8 people.

Freeze leftovers: Bake, cool and transfer to plastic or glass airtight containers. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Freeze unbaked: Assemble the casserole, wrap tightly with plastic and aluminum foil on top. When ready to eat, warm up on a counter for 30 minutes to prevent dish from shattering in the oven. Bake from frozen increasing baking time by 15 – 20 minutes.

I remember when I was pregnant, I stocked my freezer with similar casseroles, and they helped a lot once the baby arrived.

Make ahead: If you don’t want to freeze, assemble and refrigerate casserole for up to 24 hours. Don’t forget to cover with plastic wrap and then bake as per recipe.

Reheating: Best would be in a microwave to prevent casserole from drying out.

I hope you and kids enjoy!

More Casserole Recipes

Turkey pasta bake inside and a wooden spoon

Print

Ground Turkey Pasta Bake

4.8 from 28 reviews

Ground Turkey Pasta Bake is a casserole recipe made healthy with ground turkey, whole wheat pasta, kale or spinach, and tomato sauce. So easy!

  • Author: Olena of ifoodreal.com
  • Prep Time: 8 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 48 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Casserole
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: North American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (9 oz) whole wheat penne/fusilli pasta, uncooked
  • 1 tsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 28 oz tomato sauce, low sodium
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning (oregano or basil), dried
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 45 cups kale, stems removed & chopped
  • 2 cups (7 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded & divided
  • 1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta al dente as per package instructions, undercooking by 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Preheat large skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion and garlic, sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground turkey and cook for another 7 minutes, breaking meat into pieces and stirring occasionally.
  3. Add tomato sauce, honey, pasta water, herb seasoning, salt, pepper, kale and stir. Add previously cooked pasta and stir again.
  4. Transfer half of the mixture in 9″ x 13″ baking dish and sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese. Top with remaining mixture and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/4 cups cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. Remove foil and broil until cheese is golden brown. Serve hot garnished with parsley if desired.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.

Freeze leftovers: Bake, cool and transfer to plastic or glass airtight containers. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Freeze unbaked: Assemble the casserole, wrap tightly with plastic and aluminum foil on top. When ready to eat, warm up on a counter for 30 minutes to prevent dish from shattering in the oven. Bake from frozen increasing baking time by 15 – 20 minutes.

Make ahead: If you don’t want to freeze, assemble and refrigerate casserole for up to 24 hours. Don’t forget to cover with plastic wrap and then bake as per recipe.

Reheating: Best would be in a microwave to prevent casserole from drying out.

Notes

  • Spinach can be substituted for kale, especially that going bad in the fridge box staring right at you. When my spinach goes bad, I freeze the box to use later in a casserole recipes and smoothies.

 Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys and a wife to Alex. And this is our healthy family recipes blog. I grew up in Ukraine on real food. As an adult, I tried many diets without results. Now for over 10 years, I cook quick and easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

What You Will Find Here

Healthy family recipes with simple ingredients. Many are inspired by my Ukrainian heritage. I share mostly dinner recipes because it just never ends... I’m obsessed with healthy freezer meals. And more than in love with my Instant Pot.

A Little More About Me

Originally from Ukraine, I now reside on magic Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada with my family. I started this blog in 2012 when I ended up at home with 2 small kids unemployed and a wee bit chubby.

93 comments on “Ground Turkey Pasta Bake

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  1. This dish was the best dish I have made in a long time… Thank you so much for your fast/healthy and delicious recipes..

    My kiddos love it too <3

  2. I tried this last night, i had most of the ingredients on hand, I didnt do the tomato sauce or honey but had some Nelsons own garlic and herb spaghetti sauce and added Mushrooms. Between 2 adults and 3 teenagers there was not a bit left! Definitely adding it to the dinner rotation! Thank you so much!

  3. Absolutely loved it! I used one pound of ground turkey as I don’t like that much meat and added a red and yellow bell pepper, zucchini and some mushrooms. I was bit skeptical as first time recipes don’t turn out that good but this one was fantastic! Thank you for this recipe!

  4. Very tasty 🙂 I added chopped zucchini. Both my husband and I loved it!
    *Did not add the honey/ maple syrup – still tasted great to us!

  5. It was soo good! I added some zucchini, yellow and red paprika since I had it in the fridge. Very easy to make, looks pretty and everyone in my family loved it!! This is a keeper!

  6. Very good! The kale had a different texture, but as long as you ate it with the rest of the dish it was good together.

  7. This was delicious and simple to make! I agree with what you wrote in this post: our bodies do need “good carbs to prevent from overeating other foods and going over [our] daily calorie intake.” I used to omit carbs as much as possible because I tend to gain weight easily, but I would be left feeling hungry after eating, and snacking on unhealthy foods to fill me up. Now, I know what foods to eat, and I eat when my body tells me to, and I’ve stopped counting calories.

  8. Hi there! Is there any way that I can substitute spinach for the kale because we have no kale, only spinach

  9. Whole family adored it! I blended the veggies (added more than spinach) and sauce so that the spinach wasn’t as ‘offensive’ to my husband and daughter 😉 They’ve requested again multiple times already!

  10. Very delicious! I used kale and spinach and aguave syrup instead of honey or maple syrup and it turned out great!

  11. Very good! The whole family liked it. I used gluten free noodles and spinach instead of kale. Thanks for all the great recipes!

  12. I’ve made this bake so many times now. It is absolutely delicious, somehow light for a pasta bake, and feeds the family for days on end. 🙌🏼🍝

  13. Thisis incredible! I only had 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and it was still wonderful! (and I used GF pasta)

  14. What a great recipe. I used chickpea pasta, switched the kale for spinach and added chopped broccoli. I made the bake through step 4 earlier in the day, covered the dish put it in the refrigerator. That evening for dinner I put the dish in the oven let it bake during the salad/soup course (including under a medium boiler for 4 minutes) and served with a side of roasted root vegetables. Easy, delicious and a quick clean up. Thanks so much.

  15. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe! I have a gluten and dairy intolerant family 🙂 so I substituted gluten-free noodles and gluten-free cheese and it turned out lovely!

  16. Wow. Fantastic. This is a keeper recipe for weekly rotation. Substituted kale for spinach. Added chicken sausage to give it a bit more texture. It was very very good.

  17. I loved this casserole! It was fairly easy to put together and very flavorful. I substituted fresh spinach for kale and it wilted down really well. I will definitely be making this again.

  18. Zucchini is 90% water so unless you are ok with that. It is going to be a bit watery. Kale are greens with releasing no water. Also depends how much you use. Maybe dice, salt it and squeeze in a towel to get rid of some moisture.

    1. Great, thank you so much for the feedback! I will leave review and let you know how it comes out 🙂

      Also, thanks so much for your recipes! They have been a huge help for me as I’m learning how to cook healthier, real food for my family. Your recipes are great!!

  19. I love this recipe – so delicious and doesn’t feel heavy. Thank you!

    I wonder about the nutrition information. To calculate calories, how big did you make each serving (9×13 dish makes approx 8 servings, but how big are those)? Thank you for any help with that!

  20. When you transfer the food into the baking dish, there’s quite a lot of liquid. At first I thought I would not include it, but then I thought since there’s so much of it, maybe the recipe needed it to cook properly, so I hoped I guessed right and put it in. When it was ready, there was a lot of liquid in the bottom of the baking dish. It didn’t effect the taste or texture since most of it stayed in the dish and didn’t make it onto our plates, but I still have to wonder if it was necessary to include all the liquid.

    1. Try different brand of tomato sauce next time. Some brands are too watered down which could cause xtra water. I didn’t have that much which nicely incorporated with pasta.

  21. Made with spinach instead of kale…it was delicious!!! My 3.5 year old had 2 bowls. Will definitely be making this again!!

  22. Quick, easy and delicious!! Love the kale in this casserole. I used chickpea pasta and raw cheddar to make a little healthier topped with Parmesan. Cheese…delicious!!

  23. I loved how easy this was to assemble. I also loved that the ingredients were ones I had on hand. I used a red lentil pasta, and using these directions, it came out with the perfect texture. I think that the seasonings were lacking for our taste. We wouldn’t make it again unless we could really figure out a way to zest it up.

  24. This was a hit tonight! Officially requested to be in the dinner rotation! Didn’t change a thing, except used only 1 lb of turkey and forgot to add the pasta water! Oops 🙂 Even still, it was delicious. I added a few dashes of garlic salt before putting it in the baking dish. Thank you for the recipe!

  25. This recipe was fantastic and very delicious. Everyone in my household loved it!
    Great way to incorporate the might Kale:-)
    Thank You!

  26. Turned out amazing! Filling but does not leave you feeling bloated. Tastes great. Definitely will make this again. Awesome post workout meal.

  27. Tried this for dinner tonight. Didn’t have the tomato sauce so did a can of whole tomato’s instead. Delicious. Family loved it.

  28. This looks delicious! Olena, could you replace the pasta with brown rice, quinoa, or zucchini pasta? My husband is not a pasta fan so I’m hoping to substitute

  29. Made this for dinner but added some red pepper flakes for heat and used honey instead of maple syrup. I also used frozen kale and organic ziti. My family loved it and so did I.

  30. Really tasty, I only had 1 pound of ground beef and regular white pasta. I also had some organic vegetable pasta sauce instead of tomato sauce. I just went for it and put what I had in there. Not altering any other ingredients. Kept the portions the same. Except the kale. I accidentally doubled it. But you couldn’t even tell. Still tasted great!

    1. Casseroles like this one are highly forgiving, use what you have on hand keeping the ratios dry:liquid the same, if you do not expect some traditional original Italian pasta bake that jumped off a Bon Appetite cover. Good job improvising, Kimberly!

  31. I’ve made this a least a dozen times in the past year or so, SO delicious! Would you make any changes to cook time or less tomato sauce/liquid if using all frozen kale?

  32. Confused by the pasta cooking instructions. Am I to cook it 4 minutes shy of the “al dente” time? So, if the box says 8 minutes for “al dente,” I only cook for 4 minutes? Or is “al dente” 4 minutes shy of normal pasta cooking time?

  33. Hi Olena,

    Can you please help me understand the measurements on the pasta and cheese? What is the “oz” amount in parentheses?

    Thanks!
    Kathryn

    1. That is if you are using scale for measuring. You can use cups. Some people use scale or to be more precise I add weight. Because for cheese you can pack cup lightly and not add enough.

  34. What exactly is the reason for the honey? I have yet to make the dish, so I’m not complaining, just curious. Not something you hear of in Italian cooking.

    1. A little bit of sweetener is added to any tomato sauce dish to offset the acidity of tomatoes. I use more naturally occurring version, honey, rather than processed sugar. Try not to add some and then taste after adding to see the difference.:)

  35. I had a couple of friends over and I did not know what to cook. I stumbled into this recipe and found I had all the ingredients. Needless to say, this dish was a hit! Thank you for all your posts! You are informative and you crack me up!

    1. Spot on, Michelle. I make this type of bake mostly during Fall/Winter and more than you because I have kids.:) Thank you for stopping by. You always leave me comments and I don’t. I don’t have time to read anything.:(

  36. This looks so delicious! I love how it looks so decadent, but it is healthy. Thanks so much for linking this to the Weekend Potluck. We are your newest followers on facebook. Hope your come back to the potluck this week!

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